At home with Joan & Rick

 

WORDS BY IMO

Joan & Richard outside their Williamstown home.

Joan & Richard outside their Williamstown home.

 

Generally small businesses have their family to thank, it’s the closest people to you who help nurture and support your dreams when they are just an idea. We have been so lucky to have Joan and Rick (Al’s mum and dad) support us from day one. The first bed we made for someone other than ourselves was a Christmas gift for them and that particular design “The Square Bed & it’s variations” have gone on to become our most ordered pieces.

Rick is a well-regarded Theatre Set Designer and is always coming up with new ideas for their house, he designed their dining room table and side-board which he had his father Peter build around 12 years ago. Now that Al’s grandfather is into his 90’s, Al has stepped into the ‘making’ role this has lead to many beautiful collaborations between father and son. Rick and Joan’s house is a gallery of family ideas, linking the generations through art and design.

Most Sundays are spent with family around the dining table sharing a beautiful well planned, extraordinary, home-cooked meal by Joan. This is where ideas, stories and beliefs are shared - a place to learn, love, inspire and be inspired. Joan has collected recipes over her lifetime and towards the end of last year she wrote a cookbook. Over a series of days Joan came down to our house in Freshwater Creek where we sat down together and designed the book. “The Table” was gifted to friends and family for Christmas, who all beamed with excitement when they found recipes and stories dedicated to them inside.

Al and I dream to one day build our own purpose-built home, in the meantime we’ll continue to share other people’s.


Q&A
WITH Joan & Rick, (AKA Al’s mum & dad)
Williamstown . VIC

Can you describe the design inspiration behind building your dream home?

We wanted to live in an environment where the sea was close and the neighbourhood was quiet and calming. When we found this block we knew it was right. Steve Bracks had committed to making the land across the road and around the corner to being a park on the eve of his election as Premier in 1999. We bless him everyday as this location is beautiful. We selected an architect after interviewing four. We chose Breathe Architecture who in 2010 were an up and coming 'sustainable' company. They are now well-known for The Commons and The Nightingale Project. They expressed a lot of the values we were aiming to achieve in a new build. We wanted a house that suited our lifestyle, allowed us to work and pursue our passions and incorporated sustainable features.

We wanted a house that suited our lifestyle, allowed us to work and pursue our passions and incorporated sustainable features.

It also needed to work for our future and of course the budget. The materials needed to be honest and authentic and the spaces welcoming, flexible and comfortable. We wanted to wake up each day and say- I love living here. It is still a joy living here after 7 years. Thanks to Bonnie, Jeremy and Glenn.


You made environmentally conscious choices when designing & building your home, can you describe them and why this was important to you?

Our choices included catching water in a tank- using this for the garden, toilets and washing machine and one tap in the house; should the water be off we still have access to tank water. We use LED light fittings and have gas heating and cooking facilities.

We have huge amounts of highly rated insulation in the walls, floors and ceilings and all windows are double glazed. The house is very well sealed. This works really well with our hydronic heating under the concrete floor and in panels upstairs. The house is always cozy and pleasant to be in in the winter. The windows are designed to open so they capture the southerly sea breezes which instantly cool the house in summer when the afternoon sea breeze comes in. The rear of the house faces north, which means the floor in the downstairs captures passive solar warmth and the heating does not need to run during a sunny day in winter. We are able to maintain the temperature easily once it heats up early in the morning. We have photovoltaic cells on the northern roof of the studio and a solar hot water service.

The house is made of recycled materials and long life rated timbers such as Ironbark on the upper storey. All these features are important because they use fewer resources to produce or are recycled and in the long run will cost less through less maintenance and no need for painting or replacement. The ironbark has a 100 year rating needing no maintenance. The running costs of the house are also lower due to the above features which was a consideration for us as get older. We are currently considering putting in batteries and more panels to become close to self sufficient in power generation especially as the government is offering 50% rebate.


We’d love a tour of your home, can you describe what you look for when styling your home?

We have an eclectic taste in design, art and architecture. The materials are important to us. They need to be beautiful, functional and practical. We love the combination of recycled timber, mild steel, glass, concrete and form ply. The palette is fairly neutral which allows us to introduce colours and textures we love. We have a range of art works, quite a few indigenous artists are represented and friends works. We also have two portraits of our beloved Jack Russell Fidel. We love mid century comfortable and beautifully designed furniture and classic black and brown leather for chairs and couches. We have a large collection of decorative pieces which we display with our books in the many shelves in the house. Books bring warmth and a very lived in feel to a room. We also enjoy unusual light fittings and have collected lamps from many places. I spend lots of time visiting op shops and have found many bargains including glassware, napery, furniture, cookbooks and clothes. I have a large collection of cook books with a purpose built shelf under the kitchen bench to house them. The studio out the back is both practical and spacious. Rick has his models and drawing board there and many designs by colleagues adorn the walls.


We dream of building a home with a big workshop and studio, you’ve done this with your home. Joan you’re an incredible cook with your cookbook and Rick, you’ve a well-regarded theatre set designer. Your home has a purpose-built entertainers kitchen and artists’ studio - do you feel having these ‘special places to create’ have influenced your work?

Being in our house and studio is very satisfying. Richard loves his studio and spends a lot of time there. I spend a large amount of time cooking and sharing meals with friends in the central kitchen/living areas. Rick also loves to cook and enjoys being in the kitchen. The spaciousness of the house and studio mean we feel very comfortable. Richard is surrounded by his models and equipment in the studio and has created a large number of shows in there since moving in. It is his first bespoke design studio and he loves it. He recently hosted a class of the Design Masters' students in there. They loved it too. The architects were able to create spaces which are both practical and beautiful to work in and add to our creative endeavours on a daily basis.

The architects were able to create spaces which are both practical and beautiful to work in and add to our creative endeavours on a daily basis.

What projects are you both currently working on?

Richard is working at the VCA/Melbourne Uni on the Design degree intensive courses and is designing 'Black Cockatoo' for the next Sydney Festival- a play about our first indigenous cricket team which toured to the UK in 1868. I am at home and working on a new cookbook. I am also looking for a new direction in my career as well as enjoying travelling this year.


You’ve encouraged us from the very start, thank you. Why do you think it’s important to support local artists and makers?

Local Artists and makers are the key to a healthy society, where the arts enrich our lives in so many ways on a daily basis. Building community through supporting locals ensures we all gain from the arts. Pursuing your passions in life, being in your 'element' when you are working is also important.


As successful creatives, what advice do you give others wishing to pursue creative careers?

Pursue what makes you satisfied, what you enjoy doing and develop your skills and talents. Life is too short to work at something you don't enjoy. 'Flow' is the experience of being fully and creatively engaged in something you love. If you have experienced this in your work or creative endeavours this is what you should spend time doing. follow you heart and build the necessary skills to support the pursuit of your dreams.


“Life is too short to work at something you don't enjoy. 'Flow' is the experience of being fully and creatively engaged in something you love.”



Lastly, what does the future look like for you?

Rick is going to continue to combine an academic and freelance career for a few more years and has dreams for a few special projects. Joan is still looking for a career alternative and really enjoying the space to create meals at home and support Rick in his very busy year while working on a new cookbook.

 
The front of the house is designed to sit comfortably with the row of Victorian cottages in the streetscape. It reflects many elements of the traditional Victorian cottage. Jeremy McLeod the architect, has referenced the neighbouring houses and created a contemporary version of the classic. It is completely white and reflects a 'white card model' used by theatre designers and architects when developing their designs. Our house is known as  Model House . Above the white facade you can see the weathered ironbark cladding of the second level of the house. The garden at the front is all native plants from the area and they are from the  Newport Native Plant Nursery . The plants replicate those in the park across the road and need very little water and survive the strong Southerly winds.

The front of the house is designed to sit comfortably with the row of Victorian cottages in the streetscape. It reflects many elements of the traditional Victorian cottage. Jeremy McLeod the architect, has referenced the neighbouring houses and created a contemporary version of the classic. It is completely white and reflects a 'white card model' used by theatre designers and architects when developing their designs. Our house is known as Model House. Above the white facade you can see the weathered ironbark cladding of the second level of the house. The garden at the front is all native plants from the area and they are from the Newport Native Plant Nursery. The plants replicate those in the park across the road and need very little water and survive the strong Southerly winds.

The front living room is a very pleasant place to sit. The light is soft and diffussed. The ceiling soars to 5 metres in the front section. The hanging lamps are from a Sydney mid-century design shop in Redfern and the two shelving units are designed by Rick to match the other joinery in the house and built by Al. The daybed (from  Innovation Living Furniture - Hawthorn is contemporary and Danish designed) transforms into a great place for visitors to stay when the red theatre curtain is drawn. The rug is a woven Indian textured piece which softens the acoustic in the room. It is also from  Innovation Living . The Chinese box was bought in Richmond and the lamp in the right hand corner came from Tang Tang Tang Tang Hong Kong. The Ruby glassware on the shelf is from Prague flea markets. Two posters are original designs for Nimrod Theatre in the 80s by  Martin Sharp . The small print is an ink work called Ciao Negroni by  Maria Montes . To the left of the picture is one of our favourite mid-century black leather chairs. Cushions are an indigenous design and a collection of op shop finds. The red lacquer tray on the chest was bought in Ho Chi Minh City on our travels.

The front living room is a very pleasant place to sit. The light is soft and diffussed. The ceiling soars to 5 metres in the front section. The hanging lamps are from a Sydney mid-century design shop in Redfern and the two shelving units are designed by Rick to match the other joinery in the house and built by Al. The daybed (from Innovation Living Furniture- Hawthorn is contemporary and Danish designed) transforms into a great place for visitors to stay when the red theatre curtain is drawn. The rug is a woven Indian textured piece which softens the acoustic in the room. It is also from Innovation Living. The Chinese box was bought in Richmond and the lamp in the right hand corner came from Tang Tang Tang Tang Hong Kong. The Ruby glassware on the shelf is from Prague flea markets. Two posters are original designs for Nimrod Theatre in the 80s by Martin Sharp. The small print is an ink work called Ciao Negroni by Maria Montes. To the left of the picture is one of our favourite mid-century black leather chairs. Cushions are an indigenous design and a collection of op shop finds. The red lacquer tray on the chest was bought in Ho Chi Minh City on our travels.

This view shows our lovely 1960s black leather chair from the  Danish Modern Warehouse  in Williamstown. The wooden sliding door is made of recycled Tasmanian Oak and slides across to the stairs to create a quiet space in the front living room. The red theatre curtain in the background also closes off spaces along the central spine of the house to create a softer acoustic and private places to dine, sleep or watch TV. The shelves to the right are designed by Rick and made by our son Al to match the original joinery to the left. Books and beautiful gifts are also very important to us and are on display throughout the house in the purpose built shelving. The red plate is a precious gift from a friend from Shanghai, Ping. It is carved and decorated by hand. The stairs are a special feature made of recycled Tasmanian Ash and mild steel. We worked with the builder and architect to design these. They are relatively inexpensive and look beautiful. We love the aesthetic of steel, timber, concrete and the velvet curtain to soften it all. You can also see the 3 metre high ceilings create a dramatic and comfortable sense of space.

This view shows our lovely 1960s black leather chair from the Danish Modern Warehouse in Williamstown. The wooden sliding door is made of recycled Tasmanian Oak and slides across to the stairs to create a quiet space in the front living room. The red theatre curtain in the background also closes off spaces along the central spine of the house to create a softer acoustic and private places to dine, sleep or watch TV. The shelves to the right are designed by Rick and made by our son Al to match the original joinery to the left. Books and beautiful gifts are also very important to us and are on display throughout the house in the purpose built shelving. The red plate is a precious gift from a friend from Shanghai, Ping. It is carved and decorated by hand. The stairs are a special feature made of recycled Tasmanian Ash and mild steel. We worked with the builder and architect to design these. They are relatively inexpensive and look beautiful. We love the aesthetic of steel, timber, concrete and the velvet curtain to soften it all. You can also see the 3 metre high ceilings create a dramatic and comfortable sense of space.

The staircase is a sculpture in itself. We love the bespoke handrail made in mild steel. The timber is recycled Tasmanian Ash from  Urban Salvage  and the black risers are 'Japaned' to match the colour scheme. The steel bars thread through the treads and go all the way to the ceiling- making the stairs safe but feel as if they are floating. At the top of the stairs is one of our pictures of our Fidel drawn by one of Al and Imo's friends as a birthday gift for Joan.

The staircase is a sculpture in itself. We love the bespoke handrail made in mild steel. The timber is recycled Tasmanian Ash from Urban Salvage and the black risers are 'Japaned' to match the colour scheme. The steel bars thread through the treads and go all the way to the ceiling- making the stairs safe but feel as if they are floating. At the top of the stairs is one of our pictures of our Fidel drawn by one of Al and Imo's friends as a birthday gift for Joan.

The bathroom reflects other spaces in the house where old meets new and recycled meets sustainable technology. The bath was bought second hand and painted by Joan before we installed it. The brass tap ware reflects all the door furniture and taps throughout the house made of raw brass. Jeremy has used timber and form ply in here too and we have installed a  Marimekko  shower curtain in the black and white colour scheme. The floor is covered by large soft grey Italian tiles from  Signorino  in Richmond. The wall tiles are a simple long white tile used in the bathrooms and kitchen. The toilets are very low water use and are refilled from tank water.

The bathroom reflects other spaces in the house where old meets new and recycled meets sustainable technology. The bath was bought second hand and painted by Joan before we installed it. The brass tap ware reflects all the door furniture and taps throughout the house made of raw brass. Jeremy has used timber and form ply in here too and we have installed a Marimekko shower curtain in the black and white colour scheme. The floor is covered by large soft grey Italian tiles from Signorino in Richmond. The wall tiles are a simple long white tile used in the bathrooms and kitchen. The toilets are very low water use and are refilled from tank water.

Our bedroom faces north and is always light filled and warm. The bed was a gift from Al and Imo when they started making furniture. It is made of recycled timber from  Urban Salvage  Spotswood. The sheets are from  GOD(Goods of Desire, Homewares in Hong Kong).  The pattern is old match boxes which used to be made in Hong Kong. The picture behind the bed is of a sculpture floating in the sea at Glenelg Beach SA. We lived on that beach and saw the sculpture and purchased the print on our first wedding anniversary(Paper). Our reading lamps are two classic Anglepoise from  Sedonia  in Seddon. The floor is recycled Tasmanian Oak with a matt finish sealer. You can also see the hydronic heating panel and the form ply wardrobe in black and the double glazed windows. The hanging lights are low wattage and have LED bulbs.

Our bedroom faces north and is always light filled and warm. The bed was a gift from Al and Imo when they started making furniture. It is made of recycled timber from Urban Salvage Spotswood. The sheets are from GOD(Goods of Desire, Homewares in Hong Kong). The pattern is old match boxes which used to be made in Hong Kong. The picture behind the bed is of a sculpture floating in the sea at Glenelg Beach SA. We lived on that beach and saw the sculpture and purchased the print on our first wedding anniversary(Paper). Our reading lamps are two classic Anglepoise from Sedonia in Seddon. The floor is recycled Tasmanian Oak with a matt finish sealer. You can also see the hydronic heating panel and the form ply wardrobe in black and the double glazed windows. The hanging lights are low wattage and have LED bulbs.

 
The kitchen is the centre of the house. We love to make tea, coffee, lunches and elaborate meals in this space. We also stand and sit in this room with family and friends having long discussions about food, politics and life. The train is a working model steam engine the Petralea made by Caleb Roberts- Rick's grandfather. The cookbooks are a small part of my collection on their purpose built shelving. The bench is recycled timber and is made by our son Al. The kitchen is very much a working space with all the equipment needed close at hand. On the wall to the left are two favourite things, a copper fish mould from Krakow and a herb cabinet from Prague- two special things brought home from our travels. The red square object on the left bench is our Tang Tang Tang Tang rice cooker from Hong Kong- beautiful and very practical. The white light shades are also from Hong Kong- The GOD Shop- Goods of Desire. I also love my Chilli Lady on the top of the back left shelf from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. On the bench is a plate of mediterranean silverbeat salad and a favourite bowl which is shaped like a section of watermelon, pink inside and green on the outside.

The kitchen is the centre of the house. We love to make tea, coffee, lunches and elaborate meals in this space. We also stand and sit in this room with family and friends having long discussions about food, politics and life. The train is a working model steam engine the Petralea made by Caleb Roberts- Rick's grandfather. The cookbooks are a small part of my collection on their purpose built shelving. The bench is recycled timber and is made by our son Al. The kitchen is very much a working space with all the equipment needed close at hand. On the wall to the left are two favourite things, a copper fish mould from Krakow and a herb cabinet from Prague- two special things brought home from our travels. The red square object on the left bench is our Tang Tang Tang Tang rice cooker from Hong Kong- beautiful and very practical. The white light shades are also from Hong Kong- The GOD Shop- Goods of Desire. I also love my Chilli Lady on the top of the back left shelf from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. On the bench is a plate of mediterranean silverbeat salad and a favourite bowl which is shaped like a section of watermelon, pink inside and green on the outside.

Williamstown House - Al and Imo Handmade - Breathe Architecture - Model House - Melbourne-12.jpg
Williamstown House - Al and Imo Handmade - Breathe Architecture - Model House - Melbourne-7.jpg

This is my Mediterranean Silverbeet. It is a tasty and healthy dish. It consists of a large bunch of silver beet cut and cooked with a small onion in olive oil. When it has reduced and softened let it cool. Pile it onto a plate and cover with Greek yoghurt. Sprinkle with paprika and split Kalamata olives and chopped mint to finish. Sometimes I add peas and beans if I have them. This goes well with meat dishes or on its own. I often use home grown silverbeet for this dish which is very satisfying.

This table is central to our house and our lives. We use the table every day for work, eating breakfast, reading the newspaper and having a cup of tea with friends. Many meals have been shared at the table. Richard's father Peter made this for us about 12 years ago. The architects designed the dining room to accommodate this table and its matching sideboard. It sits under a found lightshade, a warehouse light fitting from the 30s. It is a bit battered but shows its history and age well. The aesthetic of old and new side by side is something we love. The vase on the table is one we have had for years. We bought it in Adelaide in the 80s. It is made by Rolf Bartz- a potter. We know his brother very well who is a theatre and film designer. The chairs are from  Thonet  in Fitzroy and are a classic Polish design- the Hoffmann. The picture in the background is a commissioned work by the late  Judith Cobb  an artist and theatre designer and friend. It is a beautiful still life which incorporates elements of both our interests, a scale rule and the cooking scales. The glassware and napkins are mostly from op shops. The coloured glasses are from a beautiful design shop in Gertrude Street Prahran and are German glass.

This table is central to our house and our lives. We use the table every day for work, eating breakfast, reading the newspaper and having a cup of tea with friends. Many meals have been shared at the table. Richard's father Peter made this for us about 12 years ago. The architects designed the dining room to accommodate this table and its matching sideboard. It sits under a found lightshade, a warehouse light fitting from the 30s. It is a bit battered but shows its history and age well. The aesthetic of old and new side by side is something we love. The vase on the table is one we have had for years. We bought it in Adelaide in the 80s. It is made by Rolf Bartz- a potter. We know his brother very well who is a theatre and film designer. The chairs are from Thonet in Fitzroy and are a classic Polish design- the Hoffmann. The picture in the background is a commissioned work by the late Judith Cobb an artist and theatre designer and friend. It is a beautiful still life which incorporates elements of both our interests, a scale rule and the cooking scales. The glassware and napkins are mostly from op shops. The coloured glasses are from a beautiful design shop in Gertrude Street Prahran and are German glass.

The light fittings are from Hong Kong and are a bespoke white version of the red market lamp shades seen in all the wet markets in Hong Kong. We love objects which remind us of places we have lived and travelled to. The bench top is recycled timber made by our son Al. It sits beautifully into a steel frame and softens the room. The scale of the bench is one of the best design features of the kitchen as it allows for lots of platters and dishes when preparing a meal for the whole family or friends. The bowls are a mix of opshop finds and family gifts The darker green one in front is a pottery bowl by Australian mid century potter Harold Hughan. In the background you can see the blue  Marimekko  tray and our scales which belonged to Rick's grandmother. The brass tap ware and door furniture is also a feature in the house. They are removed from the manufacturing process before the zinc coating is put on. We love the raw honesty of the untreated brass. The colour palette in this part of the house includes a range of blues and greens which makes it soft and soothing in appearance.

The light fittings are from Hong Kong and are a bespoke white version of the red market lamp shades seen in all the wet markets in Hong Kong. We love objects which remind us of places we have lived and travelled to. The bench top is recycled timber made by our son Al. It sits beautifully into a steel frame and softens the room. The scale of the bench is one of the best design features of the kitchen as it allows for lots of platters and dishes when preparing a meal for the whole family or friends. The bowls are a mix of opshop finds and family gifts The darker green one in front is a pottery bowl by Australian mid century potter Harold Hughan. In the background you can see the blue Marimekko tray and our scales which belonged to Rick's grandmother. The brass tap ware and door furniture is also a feature in the house. They are removed from the manufacturing process before the zinc coating is put on. We love the raw honesty of the untreated brass. The colour palette in this part of the house includes a range of blues and greens which makes it soft and soothing in appearance.

This chair is Rick's Hans Wegner high backed plank! I gave it to him for a special birthday and it is as old as he is- a classic mid century design(er). The train on the shelves here is made by Rick's grandfather and is a working steam engine- it is a model of a real train the Petrolea. These shelves were designed by the architects and me to accommodate my collection of cook books. I love the way they are hidden from the kitchen under the expansive bench. The train model is holding its own for now but the collection of cook books is growing. The floor is polished concrete and has great underfloor hydronic heating which keeps us snug in winter. The shelving is also made of mild steel and form ply- a recurring use of materials throughout the house.

This chair is Rick's Hans Wegner high backed plank! I gave it to him for a special birthday and it is as old as he is- a classic mid century design(er). The train on the shelves here is made by Rick's grandfather and is a working steam engine- it is a model of a real train the Petrolea. These shelves were designed by the architects and me to accommodate my collection of cook books. I love the way they are hidden from the kitchen under the expansive bench. The train model is holding its own for now but the collection of cook books is growing. The floor is polished concrete and has great underfloor hydronic heating which keeps us snug in winter. The shelving is also made of mild steel and form ply- a recurring use of materials throughout the house.

Rick in his purpose-built studio which is seperate to the house and overlooks the garden.

Rick in his purpose-built studio which is seperate to the house and overlooks the garden.

The back garden is Joan's domain - she tends it carefully. The pomegranate tree in the bed at the right which is looking very wintry at the moment, is lush and laden with fruit at the height of summer. It's a beautiful tree which was given to Joan by her school colleagues after her dad Ken died and it's clearly found a perfect home here in Williamstown! Lemons are abundant at the moment, from the Eureka lemon tree tucked in beside the water tank.

The back garden is Joan's domain - she tends it carefully. The pomegranate tree in the bed at the right which is looking very wintry at the moment, is lush and laden with fruit at the height of summer. It's a beautiful tree which was given to Joan by her school colleagues after her dad Ken died and it's clearly found a perfect home here in Williamstown! Lemons are abundant at the moment, from the Eureka lemon tree tucked in beside the water tank.

 
 

PhotoGRAPHY - IMOGEN GILCHRIST
ARCHITECT - BREATHE ARCHITECTURE


 


We’ve started this journal in hope that through us sharing stories like Joan & Rick’s it encourages others to -

  1. Be creative.

  2. To follow your passion project.

  3. Support local artists and makers.

OUR HOPE IS THAT THROUGH US SHOWCASING SMALL, LOCAL AND ETHICAL ARTISTS/ MAKERS/ BUSINESSES IT ENCOURAGES OTHERS TO SUPPORT LOCALLY, HANDMADE.